Stages have been dark for Southwest Virginia audiences seeking big ticket-style musicals. But with pandemic restrictions eased, two mainstay series are returning.
Broadway in Blacksburg and Broadway in Roanoke are back, and the Blacksburg series will close its series with a major stage star, Kristin Chenoweth.
Both series are bringing high profile shows and New York-level talent, with jukebox musicals, iconic musical theatre classics and contemporary hits filling the 2021-22 seasons.
The Blacksburg series, at Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall in Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, will host three, one-night only, Broadway productions this spring. “Rent: The 25th Anniversary ‘Farewell Season of Love’ Tour,” is set for March 1, 2022.
Chenoweth, an Emmy and Tony award-winner, hits the state on April 14, 2022, to perform “For the Girls,” a concert paying tribute to some of music’s greatest and most influential female voices.
“There really was a lot of interest for this in patrons, the community, and students,” said Ruth Waalkes, Virginia Tech associate provost for the arts and the Moss Center's executive director. “The Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre here at the Moss Art Center is a really beautiful space to have big musical theatre productions.”
The season kicks off on Nov. 1 with the smash hit “Waitress,” a contemporary musical. “Waitress,” which debuted in 2015, is a collaboration by pop artist Sara Bareilles and playwright Jessie Nelson, based on the 2007 movie of the same name.
That movie, written by and starring the late Adrienne Shelly, follows Jenna Hunterson, a waitress and expert pie baker in a small southern diner, who finds herself in a rocky marriage with an unwanted pregnancy.
The audience follows Jenna’s personal journey to finding courage through adversity, facing hard
truths, and starting fresh.
The years of production that lead up to this tour — from the quaint 2007 flick and tragic backstory of Shelly’s untimely murder, to the beautiful musical that pays homage to the original screenplay — will surely make for an emotional and unforgettable show.
“Waitress,” a story that takes place in a small town, received a stellar critical reception in the Big Apple, with Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Lead Actress. Now, the musical plays a small town, Blacksburg, and therein lies some charm.
It seems fitting that a show about fresh starts and hope is the inaugural production for Moss’ first Broadway in Blacksburg since the pandemic.
“‘Waitress’ is pretty uplifting, and these are times when we need that,” Waalkes said.
Not many opportunities come for small towns to see full-scale Broadway productions, and even fewer opportunities come for college students to have affordable access to them.
“It’s a really warm and intimate feeling in our theatre — I think max capacity is around 1,200 seats — so it’s a pretty incredible opportunity to see this type of a production in a space where you feel really close to the action,” Waalkes said. “It’s just a beautiful place, and these Broadway productions add a lot of breadth to the offerings we have here at the Moss Arts Center.”
Broadway in Roanoke offers five other theatrical productions. This series offers productions at the Berglund Performing Arts Theatre, which seats 2,150.
The Berglund will host“Anastasia”, “Hairspray”, “Jersey Boys,” “British Invasion” and “Cats.”
“Our communities have supported the arts throughout the COVID year; we’ve really relied on our communities to stick with us and it’s so wonderful now to have people come back through our doors,” Waalkes said. “It means a lot to us and it means a lot to our community and we’re very excited for the year ahead.”